7 On Your Side: Why no charges yet in Oxon Hill crash that killed 3 children?

The Mejia family (Family photo)

A precedent-setting 1988 Maryland legal case explains why Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Office may take weeks or months to charge the suspected drunk driver believed responsible for killing three children on Indian Head Highway on December 30.

Police believe the car, a sedan carrying a couple and their three children, was stopped on Indian Head Highway at the Kerby Hill light when a pickup being driven southbound by a 27-year-old man hit it, seemingly making no attempt to stop. The truck came to rest on top of the rear-passenger compartment of the sedan.

The impact killed the children, 5-year-old twin siblings Alexander Mejia and Rosalie Mejia and their 1-year-old Isaac Mejia, all from Falls Church.

While not currently in jail, the suspect in the Oxon Hill crash now has a restricted Maryland driver’s license, allowing only to travel from work to home, according to a police source familiar with the case. No name has been released by law enforcement since no charges have been filed.

Multiple Maryland law enforcement sources, speaking on background, explained the importance of Gianiny v State, 577 A.2d 795 (Md. 1990).

The case held that a defendant who had been issued a ticket for negligent driving and then paid the preset fine for that ticket, could not later be charged with auto manslaughter even though there had been a death. In short, Maryland prosecutors lost a high profile DUI case three decades ago due to the legal concept of “double jeopardy.” That’s a constitutional protection preventing a person from being charged with the same criminal incident multiple times.

Toxicology reports, accident reconstruction to determine brake conditions, witness interviews and other evidence collection can take weeks or months before charges are filed in Maryland.

In contrast, some Virginia cases are prosecuted at an earlier stage of evidence collection, as shown recently with the near immediate charges filed against Zachary Frye of Purcellville for last week’s fatal crash in Lovettsville, Virginia.

The Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney office states “toxicology [tests] are not an exclusive evidentiary item to support intoxication.”

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